Corruption and scandal is becoming as common in Canada as hockey and snow
It’s safe to say that Canada’s reputation has taken a hit under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, particularly through his foreign and environmental policies. Now it seems our standing as a clean, polite and honest nation has taken a hit as well.
Canada has placed among the 10 least corrupt countries in the world for the past six years according to rankings by Transparency International. That clean streak is about to change.
The Canadian Senate, the Prime Minister’s Office, the opposition parties and the mayors of Canada’s two biggest cities have all been marred by controversy in the last month.
First off we have the senate expense scandal where four senators had been claiming private expenses on the public dime. The scandal has been made worse due to the departure of Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright. Wright quit after the revelation he paid about $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy to settle unentitled expenses.
Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party are polling at their lowest numbers in four years, the reason being the uncertainty of Harper’s role in the Duffy/Wright affair. In order to deflect attention away from his scandal plagued party, the Prime Minister’s Office with help from the media decided to share their misery.
The PMO leaked details to the press on how Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had been charging fees to speak at charity events back when he was a simple MP. Charging speaking fees is not illegal and often benefits the charity, but this controversy seems to be revolving around the charities that lost money and received no refund from Trudeau.
Around the same time, CTV blew up a story which found NDP leader Tom Mulcair passing through a check point at the base of Parliament Hill without stopping. He then went through multiple stop signs while a patrol car followed.
Thankfully and mercifully the spring session of parliament came to a close last week. Any casual observer must be wondering how anything gets done in this country with all the scandal, controversy and mudslinging going on. You would think the House of Commons exists simply for MPs to poke fun at each other’s leaders, not to debate actual policy.
Not to be outdone by our politicians in Ottawa, our mayors have also become a demonstration of Canadian greed and fallacy. The whole world knows about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged crack smoking video. But while international coverage of the scandal has disappeared along with the video itself, the allegations continue to dog the mayor at every turn. Despite the seriousness of the allegations, Ford remains in office.
Where Toronto fails, Montreal succeeds. The mayor of my hometown, Michael Applebaum was arrested last week by Quebec’s anti-corruption unit and faces 14 charges including fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust and corruption.
Applebaum’s arrest came just months after taking over for departed Mayor Gérald Tremblay who resigned following allegations of corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. Saulie Zajdel, who worked in a ministerial office for the federal Conservatives on ethnic outreach, was charged alongside Applebaum.
Canada’s squeaky clean image clearly isn’t what it used to be, or at least not what it should be. Politics in this country is normally boring and tedious, which it should be more often than not. Excitement in politics usually means someone has done something wrong; the House of Commons should not be on par with the latest television soap operas.
Canada’s image might be changing, most of all in our own eyes, but I have a feeling that south of the border not much will change. No matter what happens up here, it pales in comparison to what happens down there.
Our clean, polite reputation has survived down south due to the lack of attention they give us. For example, the floods in Calgary and Alberta managed to get about ten seconds of air time on CNN. I used to take offence on how the United States and other countries ignored us up here, but in light of the past month I’m starting to think it’s for the best.